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The nation’s first federally-commissioned monument, Horatio Greenough’s huge marble statue of George Washington, sits near the entrance of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Meant to be the symbolic focus of the whole continent–at the very center of the US Capitol–the monument instead seems a sadly curious relic.
This book tells the tale of its demotion from stardom to obscurity: the story is stranger than fiction, including an attempted murder; fights in the USA, Britain, and Italy; and political maneuvering. Horatio Greenough and the Form Majestic: The Biography of the Nation’s First Washington Monument presents new research into the complicated tale. It translates and explains the monument’s Latin inscription and offers the story of how the work was brought to America by a sea captain subsequently immortalized by Herman Melville. The book also untangles and decodes the monument’s symbolism for the average spectator and art lovers alike.
This is the story of the commissioning, conception, execution, transportation, installation and re-location, the public’s bemused and often fond reception, subsequently frequent re-positionings, and so much more of the nation’s first monument to George Washington. Horatio Greenough’s statue rests at the heart of an amazing tale, never told before this book.
Publication Date: March 16, 2020